Physical Literacy: Robert Bettauer at TEDxPenticton 2012


Translator: Carlos Arturo Morales
Reviewer: Elisabeth Buffard (chanting)
Where do we go from here? T, E, D, X, TEDx Penticton– One, two, three, four– My talk with you today is about something that, I believe, very passionately,
is fundamental to the future health and happiness
of our communities across the country, and it’s about “Physical Literacy:
A Call To Movement”. So I have to set the table with some
news that’s not very, very encouraging. We are living in a world now
where it’s estimated that one third of our children
in Canada, age 5 to 17, are overweight or obese.
That’s just staggering, stunning. On top of that, it’s estimated
that currently 2.5 million Canadians suffer from type 1 and type 2 diabetes and that by 2020, that number
is going to grow up to 3.5 million. How can we allow a situation like that to occur in a country that has the wealth and the quality of people that it has? This is a major crisis, a major concern, because the tendencies
that children develop in their youth tend to carry on into their adult years. Unchecked, by 2040, 70% of Canadians
will be overweight or obese. But I’ don’t think I have
to tell you what that means, not only in terms of health care costs but, just in terms of our productivity,
in terms of our creativity, in terms of what we contribute
not only to our own country, but globally. It’s been said that this generation
of children will be the first one, in a few hundred years,
that’ ll have a lower life expectancy than their parents.
And the estimated costs of obesity are between 5 to 7 billion a year and that’s just the costs that we know. It doesn’t really talk about
the emotional costs, the human costs, that are
probably much greater. We are physical beings, aren’t we? This is a physical world, mother nature
has given us incredible gifts and we are physical beings.
What’s amazing is that 200 years ago, we were the same
as we are now physically, but over those 200 years, our society
is unrecognizable, isn’t it? I mean in terms of the knowledge
that we’ve adquired, in terms of our technology,
we’re moving at lightning speed. You know, our bodies haven’t changed;
the needs for our bodies are connections to the earth;
they’re the engines that drive us. That’s how we really determine
the quality of our life and are able to engage fully
in all of the other pieces that life offers us. It’s interesting to note that in today’s world, we are quite prepared to invest
in some of the material items around us. I think the new iPad
is coming out in the next few days … nobody is got a problem popping down
500 to 800 dollars for that latest iPad. We’re going to spend quite a bit of money to make sure our cars are running well, we’re going to renovate
our homes, aren’t we? But how much
are we investing in ourselves, in our children in terms
of being physically healthy, active and enjoying the quality of life. Why is it happening? That’s the fundamental question.
Well, first of all, I think that all of us know it tends to be a more sedentary life
that we have going on right now. The influx of the whole computer
and video age has become much simpler. All right? After a day at work or school,
we plonk ourselves down on the couch and disengage with the real world and engage with the technological
world we’ve created. Reduced parental involvement: look, parents are still
the number one role model for their children; always have been
and I think always will be, and it’s not what you say;
it’s what you do. That’s what our children really feed of,
that’s what they learn from. And so, in a world where both parents
tend to have to work now, right? … because of the economic challenges; those pressure points. Maybe it’s much
more difficult to be able to lead a lifestyle, an example of lifestyle that the children
will be able to really build on. We’re bombarded with cheap nutritional
processed food ads and easy access to it. And so much easier also,
in our busy lives, to say, “Yeap, let’s go down
to the local fast food chain and deal with dinner there
and the chips and, you know, the sugared water and all of that”. That’s also having a huge impact. Now, I know in Penticton,
there’s a farmers’ market out there, organic goods all over the place.
So, there is a lot of good news starting to develop as well,
but this is still a prevalent issue for us. And this is the one that I really
have a problem with: we have greatly reduced the emphasis
of proper physical education delivered by trained practicioners
in our school system. And it’s due to, I think, a misjudgement
in terms of the priority value of physical education: somehow it’s not as important
as academic or artistic education and the percieved
cost of implementation. So, we’re here to challenge that. So, what can we do about it? There is an answer and
it’s called Physical Literacy. And the concept of Physical Literacy
is the same as it is for literacy in writing and in arithmetic. We understand to become
competent at math you need to learn
the fundamentals of arithmetic; to become somebody
who can read and write, be able to write essays and stories, you need to learn the alphabet. And we do understand that to be able
to enjoy physcial activity fully and to be able to engage in sports in a way that makes you feel
confident and enjoyable, you need to learn
the fundamental movement skills, the ABCs. And those ABCs
are learning to run, learning to throw, learning to catch,
learning to jump, becoming aware of one’s body and,
and this is a key, key point, done in a way that is fun and enjoyable. This isn’t about creating
high performance olympic athletes; this is providing …
the idea of providing every child with the opportunity to understand
how they can engage in physical activity in a way that they can enjoy
and progress in. So, some of the things
that physical literacy does … and I know … a lot of this…
this isn’t rocket science, we didn’t just invent this;
this is intuitively correct, right? When we … when I …
I’m sure a lot of you are nodding your heads right now going,
“Yeah, that makes sense.” The real question is why aren’t we…
why aren’t we doing it … why isn’t it systematically entrenched? What are the benefits to being
learning Physical Literacy at any stage in one’s life, right? Well, first of all, the motor skills
and the coordination development, so that when you engage
in various forms of physical activity and sport, you’re confident at it because,
as human beings, we aspire to confidency, we aspire to
doing something reasonable well and we want to be able
to improve upon that. And that’s what part
of the enjoymnent is all about. Body awareness and body image: so, by becoming physically literate,
we understand how our body works, how the legs and arms,
how it’s all coordinated, how we can go faster,
how we can have more endurance, how we can enjoy our nature
and our environment an healthy body image. How big an issue is that
today for our youth, particularly for young girls
when they see the nonsense that’s often paraded in the magazines
about what’s considered attractive? For our ch… it’d be so important
for our children to know that what’s attractive
is being physically fit and being active, and particularly for girls. I live in a world where we have
a lot of young female athletes, including my daughter and
they are starting to really understand being fit and maybe having a few muscles and being someone
who’s constantly engaged in activities is actually very attractive
and a good way to live. Psychological benefits:
clearly, when we are fit, when we are constantly engaged,
we feel better about our life, we enjoy life to a greater degree, we have an enhanced
self-image of ourselves, we build up self-esteem
because physical activity involves a process
where we see progression, where we see ourselves
moving from one stage to another. We know that after we engage
in physical activity we feel better and we also have the ability,
and this is the evidence starting to really mount on this, this is so critical, particularly
at the school system, that children who are fit and healthy,
do better academically: they have better attention spans,
they’re more focused, they’re more cooperative
and they’re more creative; talk about the importance of a future having a creative, imaginative,
energetic young generation. Well, a big part of that is
them being physically active and healthy. The Cultural Benefits:
the correlation between understanding that when you work at something,
you put in an effort and you discipline yourself
to keep doing that, that you improve,
that you get better, that such a fundamental social quality
that we all value. Within that, the physical activities
and the activities associated with that,
lend itself to cooperation; and community involvement.
Pectinton is a model in many ways already and I now live in Victoria
which is a similar community, where we get it,
we live in unbelievable nature and we … we work, as communities,
hard to connect to that nature and to respect that nature
and provide opportunities for our citizens to interact
with that nature. And that isn’t mostly in a physical way,
also in an creative way, also in an artistic way.
But, there’s a physical reality out there for us to enjoy. And it’s an atmosphere, especially,
that you cultivate with youth, that advocates and promotes empathy,
trust and respect. Again, fundamental qualities
that we want all citizens to be able to share with each other. Now, there is a framework
that’s being developed, which helps articulate that
and it’s called “Canadian Sport for Life”, and it’s based on a science …
on empirical evidence of what the different stages
of development are that a human being goes through. In this case, it is focused
on the physical, but it doesn’t disconnect from cognitive
and emotional pieces as well, because they’re all interactive,
We’re all interactive human beings. All those pieces work together
in a holistic way. What’s great about this model, what I … If some of you have had an experience
with the sport model, you know, it used to be
a pyramide and at the top were the olympic and paralympic
and professional athletes. Look where they are now.
They’re important, excellent, trained to train, that’s an important component
and always will be, but look now where the majority of us
are able to engage. Physical Literacy are the entry stages
from 0 to 12 years of age, and we’re not talking about
single sport dedication, we are talking about
exposure to a multiple arena, array of physical activities and sports. We don’t believe anymore
in early specializaton, we believe that children should be
exposed to all kind of opportunities, and that that should be …
the emphasis, primarily, should be on fun and enjoyment and progressing is part of
that fun and enjoyment. And look at where the big category
Active for Life, that’s all of us by the way. All of us are active for life and,
in fact, this model is going to change a bit,
because that physical literacy, that yellow base is going to be a stream, it’s going to go up along the right, because for many adults
who weren’t exposed to physical literacy as youth,
there’s an opportunity to do it now at any stage. It’s great, it’s critical for us
to introduce this to children, where we have the maximum impact,
but at the same time, this is not exclusive to youth,
all of us get to engage at any level. And I think that’s going to make
a fundamental difference as well. So, what does that mean
in terms of practical application for physical literacy
when we now have identified what a child from 0 to 6 is capable of, what their stage of development is:
psychologically, cognitively, emotionally and physically. It means that we now
adjust that experience, that introduction to physical activity
or sport, based on that stage. So, the greatest example, the sport that
I have quiet a bit background with, is in tennis, progressive tennis. What you’re seeing there is an example of how we scaled the tennis experience
to one that matches a skill stage, the stage of development of the child, smaller courts, smaller nets,
raquets of different sizes, bigger foam balls, so that
the first experience that the child has is one that’s positive.
They’re actually hitting a tennis ball over the net on the first day. Now we’re seeing microsoccer,
we’re seeing it into hockey. I had an engagement
that I was involved with my children with the Pectinton hockey association. Novices now have five
or six different little mini-stations on the ice, so it’s starting to work
its way into the system. Every sport now and
the all-physical activityis geared to the common language of “Canadian Sport for Life” and
understanding those stages. I’ve been a high performance
athlete all my life; I played Wimbledon and the French Open,
Davis cup for Canada, I’ve coached two olympic games. But … it’s been said
that I’ve come over from the dark side and I’ve seen the light.
(Laughter) Because Joanna and I would quiet often walk onto a gym floor
in elementary school and we look at each other and we’d say:
“who are we going to save today?” Because we’ve understood,
we started to understand that we were seing a full spectrum of
where children were coming from and many of them were coming from
some pretty tough situations where they were not getting opportunities. And through providing
a physical literacy opportunity, we were giving many of them a key, a key to a lifetime pass potential
of being healthy and fit, andbeing productive
and opening all kind of doors, with as simple a program as this.
It was a revelation for me and that’s why I believe so passionately. Because high performance
olympic athletes … no problem. The more young kids
we have engaged in physical activities and being active for life,
the more athletes you’re going to have. We’re taking care of the whole
high performance piece by just having some, but by having
all of our children be exposed to this opportunity. The key for sustainability
is that we educate the educators. There are lots of generalists
at the elementary school level; they want to do a better job,
they want to bring to their children a high quality experience, but they don’t know how. So, I think
that the sector is working together is to provide that guidelines,
to provide those tools so that, for example,
our model in Victoria is: first year, we run the program
but we get some engagement from the staff, second year, the staff starts
to run the program with us supporting and third year the staff runs the program. So, at the end of this,
this is about connecting and completing the literacy that all of us,
as holistic human beings, need to be exposed to and have access to. What my pitch is and
what we’re advocating here is that if we do not emphasize,
at the level of young children, the importance of physical literacy,
how that’s applied in a way that’s fun and motivating
and encouraging, then we will pay a bitter price for that. We already are to some extent,
but we already know that if this trend continues,
it’s unsustainable and it has huge damage for our society. The good news is: we have an answer,
we have the opportunity to interact with everybody in a way
that would have a profund impact. I know that, in many ways,
I’m preaching to the converted here already. This is a very healthy community,
but this is a message for all Canadians. What I’m calling for is a collective
movement towards a healthier, happier, more active future for all, a call to a movement for movement.
That’s what this is about. Aren’t we beings who like
to move, all the time? It’s so much better for us to move,
to be engaged. It creates energy, it creates
the motivation to want to do more, to want to interact with each other. So, this is why I believe
that physical literacy is a concept and a movement
whose time has come, it’s an opportunity for us,
as a country, to partner together, to share our resources,
to connect and provide the greatest gift that we can to our children, which is a bright, wonderful,
healthy, happy future. Thank you. (Applause)

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